Thursday, December 07, 2017

Google Pixel 2 Phone, Pixel Buds bluetooth headphones

Edit: 2018-03-21: I do like the Ear Buds, but my criticisms of the sound quality and the lack of noise cancellation stand.  It's fun to walk with them, but not in high-noise environments. 

I have a Pixel 2, and the Pixel Ear Buds, and I'm definitely of two minds about them.  I think it's time Google put some serious money into design.

I don't like IOS, although I'm an Apple fan most ways, so an iPhone X is out of the question for me.  Nevertheless, I wish my Pixel looked like that.  I wish it was interesting looking in any way!  It's just bland.

Bland wouldn't be so bad; the phone is, at least, small and smooth and pleasant to hold and use.  And it looks OK.  However, for some unknown reason, about a quarter of the back is covered in a chunk of extremely thin glass.  Hey, it looks and feels kinda nice, but I had the phone not more than three days when it slid out of my pocket at a theater, not more than 15 inches off the carpeted floor, and shattered.  Obviously you CANNOT use this phone without some kind of box around it, which completely destroys the nice look and feel of it.  And this is a premium phone, most definitely in price.  Why should I have to wrap my $700 phone in a cheap box just so that I can dare to take it somewhere?

And they've removed the analog headphone jack, which means to use my headphones I need to use a clumsy adapter.  And the adapter/phone interface needs some work; the phone doesn't always recognize when the adapter is plugged in.  That generally requires rebooting the phone.  And it will take another clumsy and expensive adapter to be able to charge the phone while I'm playing music on it.  Which isn't even out yet.

(BTW, wouldn't it make sense to have TWO USB-C jacks on the thing?  Wouldn't that be unique among phones, a reasonable "premium" feature, and since the circuitry for the single port is already there, still save some space in the phone?)

I'm a musician; I really do want high fidelity sound from my device, and the lack of an analog headphone port means I must really use bluetooth, which has NO real hi-fi codecs available, at least not yet.  Even the best of them, aptX, only promises "nearly CD quality sound".

Which brings me to the buds.  They don't sound good.  The bass is OK, but subtle high frequency stuff, like maracas, tend to disappear.  I've certainly heard decent sounding bluetooth headphones; my old Sony SBH-50 sounds a lot better than these things.  On the plus side, once you have them adjusted, they are quite comfortable and stay in your ears.  But I'm not sure I want to live without noise cancellation in my headphones anymore.  At least the touch controls work pretty well.

Google, I have to admit, you are making me look longingly at the iPhone X and the Samsung and LG phones.  For a premium price I'd much rather see a premium design.  I'm not sure how much I want to trade groovy looks and sound for the most up to date version of Android.

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